Op-Ed : Toward a summit ready and sustainable Vineyard
In a couple weeks, leaders from around the world will convene in Copenhagen for a global summit to reduce carbon emissions.
This windy Danish city (which I called home until January) has been preparing for the December summit for years. The official Danish government strategy has been refined and polished and refined again, and the people of Copenhagen have been readying their city to demonstrate how a high standard of living can be achieved with a high proportion of renewable energy - 19 percent in Denmark's case.
While hundreds of thousands of participants will converge on Copenhagen, attention will also be turned to a smaller Danish community - Samsø. This small island has become the world's poster child for sustainability.
Much like Martha's Vineyard, Samsø is an island community with a small core of year-rounders and an economy that relies on thousands of summer residents and visitors who take the ferry from the mainland to one of the island's two ports. Like Martha's Vineyard, much of Samsø is green, with agricultural lands and forests meeting the blue of the surrounding waters. Samsø's residents also pay higher prices on everything from sugar to tires, the result of an economy where everything is transported to the island by ferry.
One thing residents do not worry about, however, is their energy bills. By improving the efficiency of their homes and offices, using the natural resources that are found on and around the island, and working together as a community to take ownership of their future, the residents of Samsø have secured their energy future.
Eleven onshore and 10 offshore wind turbines now generate more electricity than Samsø uses. Visitors still flock to the island to enjoy the agricultural surroundings and sparkling ocean vistas, but now the island's tourism industry has also grown to meet the interests of a whole new kind of visitor - the one interested in seeing sustainability and renewable energy at work. The new education and conference center introduces thousands of tourists to Samsø's energy achievements each year.
In December, Samsø will become a showcase for delegates from around the world. But US delegates to the Copenhagen summit do not need to carry Samsø home as an exotic, foreign example of sustainability. Martha's Vineyard is headed for the same stability and sustainability that Samsø's residents are enjoying.
Over the past few months, the Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) has been talking to Islanders about our energy resources and has found an overwhelming desire to take control of our Island's energy resources. Islanders have strongly supported the idea of a community-owned cooperative to generate our own power and promote energy efficiency, keeping the benefits on the Vineyard. This was underlined by the Island Plan's vision of a more sustainable energy future.
VEP has responded by forming a community-owned cooperative, Vineyard Power.
While the world is focused on climate talks in Copenhagen, Vineyard Power is working towards achieving the self-reliance that our community has envisioned. It'll be the kind of sustainability that world leaders will be trying to achieve through the climate summit - just locally grown.
Suzanne Slarsky-Dael, a Vineyard resident for the past year, does consulting work on environmental communications issues. Her work includes assisting Vineyard Energy Project's launch of Vineyard Power. Ms. Slarsky-Dael worked in Denmark as a communications strategist for the Danish equivalent of the United States Geodetic Survey, a part of the Ministry of the Environment.